Watch a brief preview of The Extraordinary Leader to evaluate the content taught in our one-day workshop! WATCH NOW

Zenger Folkman blog

November 27, 2017

No Comments

Change Your Leaders To Change Your Cultureby Zenger Folkman

 

How would you describe the culture of your organization? Some might say, “It’s the smell of the place,” or, “It’s how things are done around here.” Research done on culture and organizational performance by Kotter and Heskett defines culture as “…gained knowledge, explanations, values, beliefs, communication and behaviors of large group of people, at the same time and same place.”  They concluded that differences in culture explains why one company succeeds where another fails within an industry. Consider Apple verses Blackberry, or Target verses Kmart. It wasn’t just the strategy that determined the success of the company, it was the culture.  The ultimate summary statement on the topic may have been Peter Drucker’s familiar saying, “Culture eats strategy for lunch.”

However, culture can’t remain stagnant.  As the economy and each industry changes, company culture needs to be constantly adapting.  Unfortunately, companies often wait too long to adjust their culture. Doing so may mean walking away from a current business model, which can be risky—or it may just be that enacting change is viewed as requiring more effort than it’s worth.

In a survey of executives from 91 companies, with revenue greater than $1 billion, across more than 20 industries, Innosight asked: "What is your organization's biggest obstacle to transform your culture in response to market change and disruption?" Forty percent of survey respondents blamed "day-to-day decisions that essentially pay the bill, but undermine our stated strategy to change." It was by far the most prevalent response. The next most popular answer, at 24%, was "lack of a coherent vision for the future."

The consequence of failure to adapt is illustrated by the Fortune 500 list. When initiated in 1955, the average time on the Fortune 500 list was 75 years.  Today it is 14.5. The S & P 500, with a century’s worth of data, shows that in 1958 firms stayed on the list for an average of 61 years.  By 1990 that plummeted to 20 years, and it is forecast to shrink to 14 years by 2026.  If the current trajectory continues, half of the S & P firms will be replaced within 10 years.

What are the options for changing company culture?

Several possibilities exist to change your company culture: hire a new senior executive; embark on a focused campaign, such as increasing innovation; restructure the organization. Into that discussion Jack Welch offered one more possibility, “If you want to change the culture of an organization change the way it develops its leaders.”

It is worth analyzing how changing leadership development could improve company culture. Our research at Zenger Folkman has shown the strong influence leaders have on every measurable business outcome: employee engagement, innovation, intention to stay, productivity, sales, performance, and customer satisfaction. If you use the metaphor of these leaders as the rudder of a large ship moving through the water, Welch’s argument becomes clearer.  Even though the leadership team is a relatively small part of an organization, they have enormous influence on its direction and in short, they shape the culture. Reshaping the rudder of the ship has a profound impact on how fast it turns and the stability of its direction.

Leadership development initiatives

It is not hard to find critics of company-sponsored leadership development.  The cynic argues, “After all the time and money we spend on leadership development, why don’t we have better leaders?”  Some argue that leadership development is often detached from corporate strategy.  Others say that the methods employed don’t have the power to truly change behavior. Still others observe that there is insufficient follow-through and managerial involvement.  Much of this criticism is justified! However, many organizations are working hard to eliminate these barriers to success.

Conversely, there are examples of success.  Some organizations see elevated 360-degree feedback scores for their executives over time.  Many firms have rising employee engagement scores.  Business outcomes, such as customer satisfaction scores, are improving. Such outcomes can be directly tracked back to deliberate leadership development initiatives.

Three ways to improve leadership development

 We strongly believe that leadership development can be significantly improved through the following methods:

• Increasing the involvement of managers in the entire development process.

• Improving the way development is delivered.

• Incorporating development into daily work.

• Ensuring that leadership development is reinforced and supported by all HR processes, including recruitment, onboarding, performance management, and compensation.

• Including a critical mass (one-third to one-half of the target population of leaders).

• Identifying specific outcomes being sought, such as innovation, customer focus, and/or profitability.

From the many possibilities, we’ll highlight three.

1. Involve Managers in the development process. When analyzing data from a study of 61 leaders in the finance industry, we noticed a significant trend. The leaders were asked to describe their manager’s level of support for their development plan, and were then placed into three groups:  unsupportive managers, somewhat supportive managers, and very supportive managers. We then asked these leaders to describe the amount of progress they had made on their development plans, utilizing the question, “I feel that I have moved forward on improving the specific issues on my development plan.” Those that answered “Agree” or “Strongly Agree” to the question were designated as “Improvers.” We found that leaders with very supportive managers were more than twice as likely to feel they had improved than leaders with unsupportive managers.

2. Build development into work. Many assume that there is a major distinction—and to some degree a barrier—between daily work and development. Conscientious employees almost always put their work first, and invariably defer their personal development until they “find time” or “have a break.” The result has been that development nearly always plays second fiddle to job performance.Jobs are a perfect classroom in which to practice and learn how to be a better leader. Daily work and development need to be brought together in closer alignment—they are not competing activities! Development enables us to be better members of the organization and to improve overall performance.

3. Build leadership development concepts, principles and nomenclature into all HR Systems. The competencies selected to be the bedrock for developing your leaders should not be confined to the classroom, or be seen as one-time events. They should be imbedded in the selection, on-boarding, performance management, and compensation of all employees.

Any student of physics knows that a body at rest requires an energetic force to get it moving. Culture is no different. Getting it to move requires a focused effort that must begin with the organization’s leaders

This article originally appeared on Forbes

 

No Comments

It’s All About Me! What Happens When A Leader Takes All The Credit?by Zenger Folkman

 

You may know a leader who has a habit of taking credit for others’ accomplishments. Their motive typically is to make themselves look more effective, hardworking, or intelligent than others. The reality is that in most situations at work it’s difficult to accurately assign who deserves credit. Even in situations where a leader does all the work on a new initiative, often their direct reports had to take care of many other assignments to allow the leader the time to produce the new work.

But does taking credit for the work of others, as a strategy to get ahead, help or hinder the leader using that approach?  What is the impact of giving others all the credit?  To evaluate the impact, I gathered Zenger Folkman assessments from over 3,800 leaders and measured their effectiveness using 360-degree evaluations from managers, peers, direct reports, and others. Each person was assessed on their tendency to take credit from or give credit to others. Their effectiveness was also evaluated on 49 additional behaviors. An average of 10 raters evaluated each person’s effectiveness, with each leader receiving feedback from different perspectives.

The graph below demonstrates the impact of taking or giving others credit on a leader’s perceived overall effectiveness. Those leaders whose tendency was to take credit were rated as very ineffective leaders (13th percentile), while those who tried hard to give the credit to others were rated as some of the most effective leaders (85th percentile).  Overall leadership effectiveness measures the overall effectiveness of a leader on a broad set of behaviors.  This data demonstrates the dramatic negative effect of taking credit, along with the positive impact of giving credit to others.

Impact Of Taking Credit For Others Work

Very few people doubt the negative impact of taking credit for another person’s work.  The question then arises, are certain behaviors more affected by the taking—or giving—of credit? The graph below shows the effectiveness ratings for the top 10 behaviors most affected, for leaders who were rated the lowest in taking credit (bottom 10%) versus those who were rated the highest in giving credit (top 10%). As you read through the list of behaviors, the negative impact of taking credit for others’ work is clear.  However, the focus should be on the extraordinary value that comes from giving others all the credit. Many people underestimate the tremendous impact that comes from making an effort to give credit to others.

This graph clearly demonstrates the positive value created when all the credit is given to others. While those who assume that by taking credit for others’ work they are getting ahead at work may find that it creates a small temporary advantage for them, the negative impact it creates is like a tsunami wave—eventually it will come back and drown them.

Giving Others All The Credit Gives Back Tenfold

This data reflects the true impact of what happens when leaders work hard to give credit to others. The reality is, when a leader makes another person look good, it makes them look good too. The analysis on this data strongly suggests that by giving others credit a leader will be perceived in the following ways: more effective in their overall leadership effectiveness, fairer, committed to help others succeed, does what is best for the company, walks their talk, accepts responsibility, is trusted, lives their principles and core values, and values diversity.

If a leader sets a goal to recognize others for their accomplishments, and looks for opportunities to make others look good, their own effectives will improve. Your motto should be, “Don’t take credit for anything—give it all away.”

This article originally appeared on Forbes

 

No Comments

Why Is It So Difficult For Leaders To Give Positive Feedback?by Zenger Folkman

At a recent event I asked the audience, “Which is easier, giving positive feedback or negative?” The majority indicated that it was much easier to deliver positive feedback. One participant commented, “It’s not difficult to tell someone they are doing a good job but it’s much harder to say, ‘You really messed up!’”

Using a series of psychometrically valid items, my colleague Jack Zenger and I created a self-assessment that measured a leader’s preference for giving or avoiding the two basic kinds of feedback. Positive feedback is defined as praise and reinforcement.  Negative feedback is corrective and points out errors or missed opportunities.

For this study we gathered a global sample of 8,671 leaders. The self-assessment reveals that 56% of the leaders had a stronger preference for giving negative feedback, 31% preferred giving positive feedback, and 12 were equal in their preference. These results stimulated the question, “Why do leaders prefer giving negative feedback despite describing it as more difficult to give than positive feedback?”

To take this assessment click HERE.

Attitudes And Assumptions

We then asked if the best managers are those who deliver more praise and recognition than negative feedback. Only 33% of leaders who preferred giving negative feedback agreed with the statement, compared to 77% of those that preferred giving positive feedback:

Many leaders assume that the most effective leaders are those that give people the tough, difficult feedback, while those who lavish praise and recognition are weak and ineffective leaders. This is like the assumption at universities that the best professors are those that give very few “A” grades and fail a high percentage of students.  Are those professors really the best teachers? Are managers who give more negative feedback than positive really the best managers?

To test this assumption, we combined the results from our self-assessment of feedback preferences with 360-degree evaluations from managers, peers, direct reports, and others around their perceptions of a leader’s effectiveness.  The outcome measure we looked at was the overall leadership effectiveness rating, which combines results from 16 competencies that predict leadership success.

Combining the databases gave us 588 leaders where we had results for both assessments.  Leaders preferring to give negative feedback had an overall effectiveness rating at the 35th percentile, while those preferring to give positive feedback were at the 47th percentile. We performed a t-test and determined the difference between the two groups was highly statistically significant (t value = 3.395, Sig. 0.001). It turns out the best leaders are those that prefer to give positive feedback.

Why are managers who give more negative feedback rated so poorly?

The data I have collected with Zenger Folkman indicates that when leaders prefer giving negative feedback, it conveys a lack of confidence in their colleagues and a primary focus on what employees might do wrong. These managers are perceived as quick to criticize and very slow to praise. This impacts relationships, trust, and integrity, and indicates that the manager does not have others’ best interest at heart.

Why do some people find it difficult to give positive feedback?

Some leaders are uncomfortable receiving positive feedback, which can result in them not giving positive feedback to others. Many leaders, when given the choice between positive and negative feedback, feel that the negative feedback will be more helpful. However, 71% of people say that they appreciate recognition and praise for a job well done. Many leaders fail to recognize the power of positive feedback and its benefit in motivating others. One concern is that if a leader provides too much positive feedback, the negative feedback will be ignored when delivered. However, our research shows that leaders who have a strong preference for giving positive feedback are rated significantly higher on their ability to “Provide honest feedback in a helpful way.”

I’m not suggesting that managers avoid giving negative feedback, but when there is more positive feedback than negative, direct reports believe that a manager is trying to help them and they are more likely to accept and appreciate negative feedback. In fact, 93% of 8,542 respondents agree that “Negative feedback, if delivered appropriately, is effective at improving performance.

Factors that increase the amount of positive feedback

Looking at Zenger Folkman’s datasets, I discovered four behaviors that enabled leaders to provide more positive feedback.  Improvement on a few of these behaviors will help increase your ability to provide positive feedback.

1. Leaders who are interested in their own development tend to give more positive feedback to others. They have an improve mentality where they believe that because they can improve, others can as well. Leaders who are concerned about their own development tend to ask for feedback and are always open to ideas and suggestions.

2. Consideration for Others. There is a strong correlation between leaders who have a high concern for others and their effectiveness at giving positive feedback. When a leader is focused on negative feedback they are more likely to judge and evaluate others. Leaders who show consideration for others show they want the best for them.

3. Desire to Develop Others. Those who give more positive feedback believe that talent and skills are dynamic and are confident that people can grow and learn new skills. They look for and support development activities for others.

4. Strong Desire to Pull more than Push. Most leaders learn first about push motivation: to set deadlines, to help others be accountable, and to push others to accomplish difficult goals. Those who provide more positive feedback also know how to pull. They get others excited about goals and objectives, and inspire others to do more. They recognize others regularly, reward high performance, and are generous with their praise.

Bottom Line

Our data provides compelling evidence that when leaders give more positive feedback than negative, they are perceived as more effective leaders. If you think you have developed a habit of focusing on what people do wrong rather than what they do right, try keeping track. Continue to identify problems and illuminate weaknesses, but provide more honest praise when things go well, recognize effort, and thank others for contributions. If you can make this change, you will notice a positive difference in yourself and in others.

This article originally appeared on Forbes

 

October 15, 2017

No Comments

Leaders Believe They Value Diversity, But Direct Reports Don’t Agreeby Zenger Folkman

How important is a leader’s commitment to creating a culture of inclusion?  How important is it that leader’s embrace and deliberately act to create a diverse organization?

In a recent Harvard Business Review article my colleague Joe Folkman and I shared our analysis of assessments from over 1.5 million raters describing 122,000 leaders from data collected over the last decade.  We were searching for new competencies that may have become more relevant and critical for leaders today than they had been in the past.  One of the most noteworthy competencies to emerge was the ability to value diversity and practice inclusive behavior.

Leaders were assessed on this capability through 360-degree feedback, collected from their manager, peers, direct reports and others with whom they worked.  Two of the items used to evaluate the effectiveness of leaders on this competency were:

• “Takes initiative to support and include people of different backgrounds and perspectives.”

• “Actively builds a climate of trust, appreciation and openness to differences in thoughts, styles and backgrounds.”

Note that the items evaluate a leader’s ability to create an inclusive environment.  The items take a broader view of diversity than merely  gender or race; and asked about diversity in background, perspectives, thoughts and styles.

(While our general conclusions come from our global database describing this competency, we  will  highlight results from one large global company.  The results shown below are based on data regarding over 4,000 leaders from that organization.)

Impact Of Valuing Diversity

We first sought to answer the question regarding the value and importance of this competency.  We can recall the time in years past when many saw this as just a “nice to have capability.” Is this now a critical competency that will impact the effectiveness and future success of a leader?  To answer that question objectively, we turned to the data.

In our first analysis, we conducted a “differentiation analysis” examining which behaviors would most effectively separate the best from the worst leaders.  We found that the two “diversity and inclusion” items were among the top 30 items.

We then analyzed the correlation between how a leader was rated on the diversity competency and their rating of their overall leadership effectiveness. The graph below shows the results.  Note that leaders who were rated very poorly on valuing diversity and inclusion were only rated at the 15th percentile on their overall leadership effectiveness.  Those who were rated in the top 10% on those two items were on average rated at the 79th percentile. This confirmed the strong correlation between a leader’s perceived overall effectiveness and their perceived inclusive behavior and actions that signaled that they valued diversity.

Correlation Between Valuing Diversity/Practicing Inclusion With Overall Leadership Effectiveness

It appears that displaying inclusive behavior and being perceived as valuing diversity is a key factor in elevating a leader’s overall perceived effectiveness.

Differences By Management Level, Gender And Ethnicity

Since the impact of valuing diversity and practicing inclusion was so significant, we were interested in conducting a demographic analysis of the data to understand which groups were more effective in practicing inclusion and valuing diversity.  We had demographic data on 1,628 of the leaders.  (It should be noted that this organization had an excellent track record around their practice of valuing diversity and practicing inclusion.)

In the demographic analysis, we compared the executive population of the more senior leaders to managers and supervisors.  We further analyzed the data by gender.  Not surprisingly, we found  that the executives and senior leader were rated significantly higher on their ability to value diversity and practice inclusion than were the middle managers and supervisors.

There were also absolute differences between males and females, but those differences were not statistically significant.  Repeatedly we have seen how prejudicial behavior by a senior executive can have an extremely negative impact on the culture of an organization.  Ensuring that senior leaders are perceived as being effective at valuing diversity and inclusion is a key factor today in organizational success.V

In this third analysis, we analyzed ratings of practicing inclusion by management level and by ethnicity.  We do not believe that these results are representative of any global or national trends but the analysis did bring out three especially important points.

1. Because a leadership team is itself diverse does not necessarily mean that they will be effective at valuing diversity and practicing inclusion. Valuing diversity is an attitude and mindset.  Practicing inclusion involves a set of behaviors that can be developed in leaders.  They are not automatically inherited simply because their current group is diverse.One of the authors was coaching a leader who was responsible for building the Japanese division of a global company and making it extremely successful.  After looking at his rating on valuing diversity the author thought, “There must be some mistake in the data,” because of the very low ratings.  Inquiring if the leader thought that this was an error the leader responded by say, “Oh no, it’s perfectly accurate. I have spent the last 10 years forcing our organization to conform to the Japanese culture and approach. I have been very inflexible.”

2. Self-perceptions in this arena are not highly accurate. Many leaders, especially the less effective ones, assume they are better at valuing diversity and practicing inclusion than they truly are. Conversely, those who are among the most effective leaders rate themselves as being less effective than others rate them.  It could be argued that individual leaders may know best about what’s in their heart, but others are in a far better position to objectively evaluate whether and how they practice inclusion in their day-to-day work.

3. Ideally senior leaders serve as role models and lead the way. If their behavior fails to convey valuing diversity and advocating inclusion then their direct reports will often emulate their leader. They absorb their attitudes and mimic their behavior.

Valuing Diversity And Practicing Inclusion Are Critical

The most progressive organizations throughout the world recognize the importance of this competency in their leaders.  Global organizations know this is a strategic advantage. Leaders who are less ineffective at this create significant problems that will haunt them and their organizations.   Fortunately, awareness and honest feedback bring change.  Intolerance and prejudice are not set in concrete, but can be modified.  Inclusive behavior along with valuing diversity can be developed.

This article originally appeared on Forbes

 

October 6, 2017

No Comments

Leaders Aren’t Great at Judging How Inclusive They Areby Zenger Folkman

Many organizations today are making concerted efforts to become not only more demographically diverse but also more inclusive and welcoming of difference. The latter is much harder to measure than the former. It’s not that hard to count the percentage of women or people of color in your organization, but how can you tell if leaders in your organization are genuinely welcoming? Do leaders know if they are as welcoming as they think they are?

To explore this question, we analyzed one large organization with an excellent track record of hiring and promoting diverse candidates and a reputation for inclusion. This organization had hired us to administer 360-degree feedback assessments for roughly 4,000 leaders, and agreed to let us use that data for this analysis.

Leaders Aren’t Great Judges of Their Own Inclusiveness

We focused on two items that have stood out to us in over 10 years of administering 360-degree assessments with over 1.5 million raters describing 122,000 leaders:

  • “Takes initiative to support and include people of different backgrounds and perspectives”
  • “Actively builds a climate of trust, appreciation, and openness to differences in thoughts, styles and backgrounds”

When we compared leaders’ self-ratings with their ratings by bosses, peers, and subordinates, what we found was that many leaders assume they are better at valuing diversity than they actually are.

The graph below shows the senior leaders’ self-ratings and their ratings by direct reports.

What is clear in this graph is that leaders who are the worst at valuing diversity are more likely to overrate their effectiveness, and leaders who are the most effective tend to underrate their effectiveness. The implications of this data are: leaders are not good judges of their own effectiveness on valuing diversity; and those leaders who are poorest fail to see the problem, while those who are the best don’t realize their skill and capability.

This phenomenon is not limited to inclusiveness — the Dunning-Kruger effect, for example, explains that unskilled people are particularly prone to thinking they are more skilled than they are. Conversely, our research has found that many of the most skilled leaders are too humble and modest in assessing their strengths.

Nonetheless, we find this result particularly disturbing when we see it in the context of inclusivity. While a person’s effectiveness with any skill always needs to be based on the evaluations of others, rather than self-perception, it seems especially true in this case. Inclusivity is particularly in the eye of the beholder. You might intend to be inclusive, and even think you are inclusive, but your impact on others might be very different.

Inclusiveness and Effectiveness Track Together

Some leaders might be tempted to brush aside inclusivity as “political correctness” or “touchy-feely stuff.” But those leaders should pay particular attention to our next finding: a strong correlation between perceptions of inclusivity and overall leadership effectiveness.

Leaders who were rated very poorly on valuing diversity and inclusion were rated in only the 15th percentile for their overall leadership effectiveness, while those who were rated in the top 10% of those two items were rated in the 79th percentile.

This result does not surprise us. Repeatedly, we have seen how prejudicial behavior by a senior executive can have an extremely negative impact on the culture of an organization. Leaders who are ineffective at this create significant problems that will haunt them.

Senior Leaders Are More Inclusive

Using demographic data on 1,628 of the leaders, we conducted an analysis to see whether senior leaders or junior managers are seen as more inclusive.

When we compared the executive population of the more senior leaders with middle managers and junior supervisors, we found that the executives and senior leaders were rated significantly higher on their ability to value diversity and practice inclusion.

This might come as a surprise to some — senior executives are often assumed to be older, stodgier, and less innovative than younger, more junior leaders — but it did not surprise us. In many of our other studies, we have found that senior executives have accumulated more leadership and managerial skill than junior managers. Since inclusivity is closely associated with overall effectiveness in our results, it does not surprise us to learn that the more experienced, higher-ranking leaders are more competent on both. Moreover, it’s worth remembering that this is an organization that explicitly values diversity and inclusion, so it’s not surprising that it would promote people who are skilled at fostering both.

When we looked at senior leaders and lower-level managers by gender, we found that women were slightly more inclusive than men, but these differences were not statistically significant.

Valuing diversity is an attitude and mindset. Practicing inclusion involves a set of behaviors that can be developed in leaders. Our research has shown that self-perceptions in this arena are not highly accurate. While it could be argued that individual leaders may best know what’s in their hearts, others are in a far better position to objectively evaluate whether and how they practice inclusion in their day-to-day work.

 

This article was originally published on Harvard Business Review.

 

September 23, 2017

No Comments

What Solid Research Actually Says About Performance Appraisalsby Zenger Folkman

The world is currently witnessing a dramatic change in the practices of performance management.  The traditional annual performance appraisal process that has been deeply ingrained in organizations for decades is giving way to more frequent conversations between a manager and subordinate.  Ratings are being abandoned and replaced with discussions about performance; rather than a review of the past, the most progressive organizations are switching to discussions about the future.  In place of a manager writing a detailed performance analysis to be presented and discussed with a subordinate, the manager and subordinate are together setting stretch goals for the future.

Many organizations are leaping with great gusto onto these seemingly revolutionary new ideas.  They speak about it as if they had discovered the double helix that unlocks the human genetic code.

The annual performance review was a practice driven by two purposes.  The first was to justify salary actions; the second, to motivate employees to higher performance.  There were logical and seemingly compelling arguments for each of these purposes. However, one problem got in the way:  Those two purposes constantly butted heads with each other.

I am supportive of the need for a dramatic change in performance management, and believe the changes that many organizations are making of late are exactly the right ones.  The tragedy is that we are doing it 52 years later than we should have.

In 1965 an article, “Split Roles in Performance Appraisal,” was published in the Harvard Business Review by three highly respected psychologists who were employed by General Electric:  Herb Meyer, Emanuel Kay, and John R.P. French.   Not long before, the legendary Douglas McGregor (of theory X & Y fame) had written another HBR article, “An Uneasy Look at Performance Appraisal.”  Because of the interest this had stirred, the GE team decided to conduct research within GE on this topic.  Their findings were:

1. Criticism by a manager has a negative effect on the recipient. Although employees say they want more information about their performance, negative feedback does damage.  No one wants their year’s performance converted into a single Arabic digit.

2. Praise does little to change performance. (Later research suggests praise does improve the manager-subordinate relationship.)

3. Criticism generates defensiveness on the part of the subordinate, which in turn leads to poorer performance.

4. Coaching between a manager and a subordinate should occur day-to-day, and not be reserved for a once-a-year event.

5. Goal setting with clear targets and deadlines improves performance.

6. Participation by the subordinate in that goal setting process produces performance improvement.

Much has transpired in the 52 years between the publication of this well-conducted study and today.  A few findings that stand out to me are:

1. Repeated surveys of both employees and managers have shown that neither group liked the process of performance appraisal. In addition, the higher you moved in an organization, the less likely it was to occur.

2. Experts from the quality improvement discipline, amongst others, were constant critics of the negative impact of performance appraisals. Edwards Deming, James Juran, and Peter Drucker were consistent and vociferous critics of it.

3. The need to justify compensation decisions was allowed to eclipse the psychological pain inflicted by the appraisal process. Only lately have we had the courage to acknowledge that there is very little distinction between compensation changes for the large group in the middle of bell-curve.  In practice, the only people for whom there were real differences in compensation were those at the extreme ends of the curve.

My takeaways from these findings:

1. Pay attention to good research. Rather than embarking on an endless quest to conduct more surveys and perform more studies, find solid research and work to implement it.  Studies are doing little good if organizations don’t implement their findings.

2. Listen to the critics. For the past 60 years we’ve known that there were serious flaws in performance appraisals. There has been a large, respected, and diverse set of critics who were basically ignored. If everyone in the organization hates the performance appraisal process, perhaps something is wrong.

3. Question major assumptions. Performance appraisals being necessary for compensation decisions was, and remains to be, not true.  Performance appraisals motivating better performance was a myth that few people believed.  However, those were the two major justifications for the performance appraisal practice.

4. It only takes a few courageous, respected organizations to openly challenge a flawed concept. Many others will then follow.

If the medical profession ignored important advancements that had been discovered 50 years ago, such as penicillin or antibiotics, we would be aghast.  Keeping up with research is daunting; it is estimated that there are 2.5 million research studies published each year, and every discipline is inundated.  Ferreting out the practical and relevant studies is not easy, but there are nuggets of valuable information available if we read the respected journals that publish practical research. It is our duty to then apply this research within the leadership and management worlds.

This article was originally published on Forbes.

 

No Comments

Do Leadership Skills Decrease With Age? 3 Ways To Maintain Your Leadership Licenseby Zenger Folkman

 

Most professions have a licensing board that is charged with ensuring that people in that profession maintain and improve their skills. This is true for pharmacists, attorneys, engineers, and physicians.  What if those in leadership positions in every company or public-sector agency were also required to periodically show that they had taken active steps to maintain and improve their leadership skills?

One of the consistently lowest scores Zenger Folkman has found on our 360-degree feedback instruments is the question having to do with practicing self-development.  Most participants will say they aspire to become better leaders.  But when asked if they are overtly doing anything to accomplish that, the answer is typically “No.”  Less than 10 percent of leaders report that they have any personal development plan on which they are working.  For those who have any plan, when faced with any other challenge or demand at work, they acknowledge that their personal development is almost always put behind work demands.

How important is developing your leadership skills?  Let’s consider three perspectives:

1. Career success. A rising star in a Silicon Valley company was talking to a large group of younger managers.  The prime message of his talk was that he had decided early in his work career that every year he would deliberately choose some leadership behavior to improve. On his list were things such as delegation, strategic thinking, rigorous problem-solving, and becoming a better team player.  The audience was struck by this individual’s intense motivation for self-improvement.  Many we talked with were convinced that this had significantly contributed to his rapid rise in the firm.

2. Organizations need it. Whenever executives are asked about the state of their leadership pipeline, they invariably acknowledge their deep concern. They volunteer that the biggest constraint to their firm’s growth and long-term success is the dearth of strong leaders. Surveys consistently confirm that the number one issue facing CEOs is leadership development.As a result, organizations spend large sums of money to achieve it. It is estimated that US corporations spend roughly $50 billion per year on leadership development.

3. Personal satisfaction. Whatever game we are playing, most of us like to win – or at least perform respectably in the contest.  The same holds true for careers in organizations: it is always more fun when you are succeeding.  It is far more satisfying to be a highly respected leader versus one who is experiencing difficulties and receiving criticism from colleagues, bosses, and direct reports.

Do Leaders Generally Improve Over Time? 

On their own, do leaders generally get better over time?  To find out my colleague Joe Folkman and I analyzed data regarding more than 51,000 leaders.  For these leaders, we had 360-degree feedback data consisting of feedback from at least 13 of their colleagues regarding their leadership practices.  This feedback came from their boss, several colleagues, and their direct reports.

The 360-degree feedback instruments measured sixteen leadership competencies.  By combining those together we created an “overall leadership effectiveness” measure.  The table below shows the results by various age groups:

Overall Leadership Effectiveness by Age
Age Mean Percentile Number Participants
25 - 35 61.53 9,577
36 - 40 51.76 8,186
41 - 45 49.73 9,646
46 - 50 48.30 8,900
51 - 55 48.09 7,400
56 - 60 47.39 4,974
61 and over 47.01 2,725

Rather than improving over time, there is a steady decline from age 25 until retirement.

What do organizations offer leaders for their development?

1. Development programs. Most programs generally avoid measures of effectiveness, including improvement over time.

2. Performance appraisals. Appraisals have been an annual event in many companies; however, many firms are in the process of revamping their performance management system.  Traditional appraisals were focused primarily on evaluation and not development.  Newer approaches are focused on improving future performance and not directly on evaluating the leader’s capabilities.

3. Assessments, especially multi-rater feedback or 360-degree feedback. Unfortunately, most companies have a “one and done” process.  Only a few of the most sophisticated organizations have repeated measures, on a 12 to 18 month cycle.  Those firms track the individual leader’s progress.

What We Know About Personal Change

Many people are working on some target of personal change.  It could be to lose weight, or to become more physically fit.  Still others elect to learn a language, or a skill such as skiing.  Whatever the target, we know that success in any of these requires more than a one-time event.  Unless there is a sustained effort, frequent assessments of performance, and an ultimate target, no one should be surprised if no progress is made.

What Should Organizations Do If They Want Better Leaders?

The organization needs to establish an ongoing process of evaluation and feedback, designed to help leaders practice and improve in order to further their development.

There are several ways to provide sustainment and follow-up.  There can be:

• Follow-on development sessions

• Coaching discussions with internal or external coaches

• Periodic articles to read or videos to watch, with discussion

• Repeated 360-degree feedback

• Specific job assignments that require the application of a specific competency

Whatever the activity, the keys to success are continuity, persistence, managerial attention, and emphasis on improvement.

How long has it been since your last leadership behavior checkup?  More than 18 months?  It may be time to ask for an infusion of self-awareness and the motivation that comes with that.  Volunteer to participate in development sessions.  Convey your interest in regular feedback.  Express your willingness to have a coach – including a peer coach.  Create a plan for the relentless pursuit of improvement.

This article was originally published on Forbes.

 

No Comments

How To Effectively Grow Your Confidence At Workby Zenger Folkman

Someone struggling with their confidence often receives the advice, “Just be more confident!”  The question then becomes, “How?”  I was determined to discover if there were some skills that have more influence over a person’s confidence than others. For those who lack confidence, or those trying to build the confidence of others, what behaviors create a high probability of building their confidence while also making them a better leader?

To understand this question, my colleague, Jack Zenger, and I created two datasets. In the first we compiled the results from a self-assessment of confidence. We collected data on 7,800 individuals from which we created a valid measure of confidence.

The second was an assessment from managers on 49 key behaviors that enable leaders to perform exceptionally well. On this assessment, we collected data from more than 75,000 managers that accurately predicts a variety of organizational outcomes, such as turnover, customer satisfaction, engagement of direct reports, and profit. We matched the two datasets and found 330 cases where the confidence assessment aligned with manager competence ratings on the 49 behaviors.

We then identified 15 behaviors with highly significant correlations, concluding that these behaviors may do more to build a person’s confidence than other behaviors. However, because these finding come from correlations, it is also possible that highly confident individuals simply tend to perform these behaviors more effectively than individuals whose confidence is low. It is impossible in this scenario to sort out cause and effect. What we do know is that improvement on these behaviors will help a person to be a better leader, which should help a person’s confidence rise.

Behaviors that Build Confidence

By factor analyzing the 15 behaviors we identified 10 clusters of items. The clusters are listed by the strength of their correlations.

1. Skilled Communicator. Communication is the most malleable skill, and research shows it is the easiest trait to develop. Many people who have gone through a public speaking class have struggled through their first presentation, but after instruction and practice see significant improvement. Communicating clearly and providing others with a clear direction builds confidence quickly.

2. Clear Priorities. Imagine yourself overwhelmed with a variety of important priorities without clear insight into which was most critical. For most people, this would cause them to be confused, frustrated, and much less confident. Having clear priorities boosts confidence because it provides clear guidelines on how to succeed.

3. Accomplishing Stretch Goals. What happens to a person’s confidence when they accomplish something that seemed impossible? It increases substantially! Many have also experienced failures in which the impossible was, in fact, “impossible.” We believe confidence is built by attempting stretch goals and experiencing both the success and failures from these out-of-the-park efforts.

4. Demonstrate Energy and Enthusiasm. There is an interesting experiment which begins with measuring a person’s happiness. The person was then asked to put a pencil across their mouth and bite down for a short time, which caused them to approximate a smile. After doing this for a short time, people reported being happier. High confidence is strongly associated with the act of showing energy and enthusiasm. If a person can fake it until they make it, their demonstration of energy and enthusiasm builds confidence.

5. Represent the Group. Asking a team member to represent the team in a presentation or meeting can be challenging for some people, but it also sends a message that they are trusted and respected. This is a great way to help people build confidence.

6. Technical Expertise. Do you remember how you felt in school when you knew the answer? A great way to increase confidence in others is to allow them the time and support to become an expert. Many high potential programs use the approach of moving young employees to different functions every few months. This is counterproductive to confidence. While it helps young employees gain a broad perspective in the company, it often sets them up with only general knowledge and no deep expertise.

7. Deliver Results. Give people a piece of work that they can be responsible for and control. When a person delivers the expected results, they become more confident.

8. Coaching Others. Set people up as coaches to others who are still learning. Helping others to learn new skills reinforces the importance of your own knowledge and skills.

9. Become a Champion. Give people the opportunity to be in charge. This implies they are trusted and respected and can boost their confidence.

10. Solves Problems. Most people have had that eureka moment when they were able to solve a difficult problem. Too often managers who know the solution don’t provide direct reports with the opportunity to solve difficult problems themselves. When we allow others to solve problems, they often find unique solutions and innovative approaches, thereby building their confidence.

No matter the age or the experience of a person, there are times in everyone’s life when confidence suffers. Look through the above list and pick at least one behavior that you can improve, then watch your confidence increase.

This article was originally published on Forbes.

 

No Comments

Your Indecision Is Costing Too Much! 8 Proven Behaviors To Help You Be More Decisiveby Zenger Folkman

 As the pace of change increases, the ability of leaders to make high-quality decisions quickly and accurately is a critical leadership capability. One might think with the influx of information available to us today that good decisions would be easy to make. In many ways, a tyranny of choice occurs when leaders have access to so much information and so many potential choices: decisions become more difficult to make. Bad decisions can put organizations in jeopardy for obvious reasons, but delayed decisions can also hurt by losing competitive advantage.  Organizations need leaders who can quickly look at the facts, discuss options, and make a decision. While it seems simple, it is not as clear what skills are needed to enable leaders to develop this skill.To better understand decisiveness, I looked at data from 589 leaders. Each was given feedback on their ability to be decisive and make high quality decisions, and were evaluated using 360-degree feedback collected from their manager, peers, direct reports, and others with whom they worked.  The following four behaviors were used to evaluate their decisiveness:

• Makes decisions and continually moves forward

• Keeps decisions moving forward in an environment of uncertainty

• Balances reflection with decisiveness

• Makes good decisions based on a mixture of analysis, wisdom, experience, and judgment

To examine the impact of decisiveness on a leader’s perceived effectiveness, we first looked at independent potential ratings for the leaders as identified by their organizations.  We then compared those ratings to the overall 360-degree ratings on decisiveness.  The graph below shows the results.  Leaders who were identified as having high potential scored 10 percentile points higher on their decisiveness than those who were identified as promotable, and 20 percentile points higher than those who were assigned to develop in place. All the differences here are statistically significant.

This analysis shows that a leader’s ability to be decisive significantly affects their leadership potential. What can a leader do to become more decisive?

What Enables Leaders to Be More Decisive?

In further analysis of the 360-degree results, I identified the 20 leadership behaviors that were most strongly correlated with decisiveness. Using a factor analysis, I then identified the eight factors that enabled leaders to make decisions quickly and effectively.  Improvement on these behaviors will help a leader to become more decisive.

1. Risk Taking. A leader who is decisive is willing to take risks. Some leaders believe that if they look at all the data, understand all the contingencies, and calculate all the potential problems, the right decision will magically appear. However, when leaders attempt to do all the analytics, many develop “analysis paralysis” and are unable to make a decision. It is good for leaders to analyze data, look at trends, and anticipate problems. However, eventually leaders need to take a risk and make a decision. When leaders recognize that most decisions are risks, they also acknowledge that they might make the wrong one.

2. Communicates Powerfully. Decisive leaders are excellent communicators who continuously keep others informed, while indecisive leaders keep information to themselves. When leaders are effective at sharing information, often other people raise additional questions or push back on assumptions. This helps leaders to become smarter about the decisions they are making.

3. Strategic Perspective. The most decisive leaders were strategic, while the least decisive were tactical. By only looking at a decision from the view of the next few months, leaders have only a short-term perspective.  Many of their decisions can cause a temporary dip in performance.  Taking the long view helps in making a good decision fit into the longer-term strategy of the organization.  Without the long view, leaders often steer away from a good decision which could result in significant competitive advantage.

4. Technical Expertise. It is difficult to make a decision when you are in over your head technically. Most leaders who encounter this problem daily have two choices: dive in and learn quickly, or pull in others and collaborate. The best leaders involve others with deep expertise. This requires humility on the leader’s part, but the process of asking others for help and working together allows the leader’s expertise and technical depth to increase.

5. Courage. When making a tough decision, there is a moment that requires courage and the ability to stand alone. While others may have contributed to a decision, leaders need to be willing to be the accountable person.

6. Drives for Results. When a good decision fails to be implemented, it quickly turns into a bad decision. Leaders who do not follow through, or fail to act quickly, will not have a successful decision. I often refer to this important capability in being decisive as “push.”

7. Inspires. For a decision to be implemented there is also a need for “pull.” Leaders who can inspire and motivate energize others to change, making it far more likely for their decisions to be implemented.

Zenger Folkman offers a self-assessment that measures your preference for pushing or pulling. The assessment can be found at: http://zengerfolkman.com/preferences-for-motivating/

8. Integrity. Leaders who have a strong sense of integrity are able to be more decisive. It can be very clear what choice to make when asked the question, “What is the right thing to do?” Often asking that one question can take a very complicated and complex problem and make it very simple.

For leaders who see the value of becoming more decisive, improving a few of these behaviors will have a profound positive impact on their ability to do so.

This article was originally published on Forbes.

 

September 5, 2017

No Comments

Six Keys To Becoming A Great Persuaderby Zenger Folkman

Most of us have been in a situation where we need to persuade others to accept our position or approach. When this happens to me, I will often ruminate in my mind how the conversation might go. I imagine that my colleague will state their position, to which I will respond with such great power and amazing insight that every observer will be persuaded to my position. However, when the time comes to persuade others to my point of view, I typically find that it’s much more difficult than anticipated.

I was recently asked to coach a CEO on his presentation skills in delivering a very critical proposal to a high-ranking official. While I had a lot of ideas and opinions on skills that are important, to provide the best guidance I turned to our research to determine what the most persuasive leaders do.

In one of Zenger Folkman’s assessments, we measure how effective leaders are at clearly communicating and persuading others to their position. Using a dataset of 330 senior leaders in an organization, I looked at which behaviors enabled leaders to be more persuasive. After identifying the top 20 individual behaviors I then used a factor analysis to find the top six dimensions, which reveal that the most persuasive leaders exemplify the following behaviors:

1. More Listening Than Talking. My immediate inclination to persuade others to accept my position is to talk, talk, talk. However, taking the time to listen first is a much more effective strategy. The best persuaders want to understand the opinions and concerns of others before presenting their point of view. Those who try to persuade first often bring out the disagreement from others, causing a debate to occur and people to start choosing sides. Once people are entrenched in their position, persuading them to change is almost impossible. By listening first, leaders understand the disagreements and concerns of others. This gives them the opportunity to either modify their proposal or at least empathize with the concerns of others.

2. More Cooperative Than Competitive. Often leaders who try hard to persuade others to their position create competition between groups or individuals. Rather than looking for an integrated solution, they often create a distinctive solution that only fits the needs of one group. Those who are most effective at persuading others look for ways to cooperate; they create the bigger tent and make sure that it covers everyone. One of the greatest advantages of any organization is its ability to get groups and individuals to work together. The synergy created by collaboration can create significant value for the organization. Leaders who have a strong motive to increase collaborative efforts in the organization are far more persuasive. The lone wolves that set themselves up to win at the expense of everyone else have a difficult time getting support for their proposals.

3. More Strategic Than Tactical. It’s very easy for those trying to persuade others to get tactical early in the persuasion process. This is a mistake! People need to first understand the why before they agree to the how. Taking the time to link a persuasive idea to the strategy and vision of an organization helps everyone understand the big picture along with the pros, cons, and tradeoffs. People are willing to endure a few cons and tradeoffs if they see how this new idea or process helps the organization achieve its strategic objectives.

4. More Pull (Inspiring) Than Push (Hard Driving). Looking at 360-degree assessment data from over 70,000 leaders, we discovered the 76% of leaders were rated higher on their ability to push (drive for results) than their ability to pull (inspire and motivate others). When most people think about how to persuade others their knee jerk reaction is to push harder (e.g., “tell them what to do and give orders”). Pushing results in compliance but often sacrifices commitment. Leaders who are effective at inspiring are able to achieve both commitment and compliance, create excitement and energy in others, and are successful at enlisting others in a mission or cause. People take action and make changes because they want to, rather than they have to. To learn your preferences for pushing or pulling, we invite you to participate in Zenger Folkman’s Preferences for Motivating self-assessment.  To take the assessment visit: http://zengerfolkman.com/preferences-for-motivating/

5. More Open Minded Than Closed. The best persuaders keep an open mind. They realize that customers, competitors, preferences, and interests change over time and these changes will impact projects, recommendations, and strategies. When people believe that a leader is not open to new information, often they will not share any opposing information with them, leaving that leader in the dark. Those who are most open-minded thank others for their disagreements and differences of opinion. The open-minded continue to see the value of diverse opinions and perspectives.

6. More Conflict Resolvers Than Conflict Creators. The greatest persuaders resolve conflict rather by maintaining the attitude that disagreements do not necessarily lead to conflict. The best persuaders are great friends with their biggest critics. They engage in healthy debate which may eventually modify their position, or provide the persuader ideas on what might bring those who disagree over to their position.

There will come a time where you want to persuade others to your position. As you look at these six keys, it’s clear that utilizing a few of them will cause others to be less defensive about their position and open to discussion. Perhaps the great persuaders are those who are have the most understanding of both sides of an issue — they may still have a very strong position, but understanding those who disagree puts them in a significantly better position to persuade.

 

This article was originally published on Forbes.

 

Next »